Lonely Days by Bayo Adebowale.
Lonely Days is a prose work written by Bayo Adebowale. It is a story that exposes the bad customs and traditional rites widows are forced to go through in Africa.
The author exposes this evil tradition by telling us the story of Yaremi and other widows of Kufi village who go through harrowing and painful experiences at the death of their spouse.
Subject Matter : The major issue of discourse is death and the author particularly looks at widowhood in Africa focusing on the fate or sufferings of widows who are accused of being the ones responsible for their husbands death.
The novelist also sheds light on the loneliness and neglect that widows in Africa have to battle with as they are abandoned by family members and their children.
Author: Bayo Adebowale.
First Published: 2006
Pages: 141 (Spectrum Edition)
1) ABOUT AUTHOR
Bayo Adebowale (born 6 June, 1944) is a Nigerian poet, prolific writer, novelist, professor, critic, librarian and founder of the African Heritage Library and Cultural Centre, Adeyipo, Ibadan Oyo State.
He was born on 6 June 1944 in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, southwestern Nigeria into the family of Akangbe Adebowale, who was a farmer. He was educated at Secondary Modern School at Ibadan, where he obtained the West African School Certificate in 1958 before he proceeded to St Peter’s Teacher College where he received the Grade III certificate in education in 1961, the same year he was admitted into Baptist College in Ede for a Grade II Teacher certificate. On October 1971, he proceeded to the University of Ibadan, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts (B. A) degree in English Language in 1974 and completed the compulsory National Youth Service Corps in 1975, the same year he joined the services of the Western State Public Service Commission as education officer before he later became an English instructor at Government Trade Centre, Oyo State. Three years later (1978), he obtained a master’s degree in English language, the same year he joined the Oyo State College of Education as Lecturer I and was later transferred to the Polytechnic of Ibadan, where he rose to the position of Deputy Rector between 1999 and 2003 having obtained a doctorate degree (Ph. D) in Literature in English from the University of Ilorin in 1997.
Though set in the rural rustic village of Kufi, Lonely Days mirrors the plight of widows in the larger Nigerian society and indeed in Africa as a whole. Much of the story revolves around Yaremi, the novel’s protagonist.
The novel opens with Yaremi recalling the events leading to the death of her husband, Ajumobi and her predicament thereafter. While mourning Ajumobi’s death, Yaremi suffered great humiliation from extended family who strongly believed that she was responsible for her husband’s death. She became very lonely, not only as a result of Ajumobi’s death, but also because her two daughters, Segi and Wura, who would have kept her company, had been married off. Her only son, Alani who lived in the city had become so urbanised that he hardly visited Kufi. Yaremi had to fend for herself and take up manly roles. For instance, she had to farm all by herself and clear the bushes around her home in addition to her main job of selling taffeta products.
Yaremi was a very strong and hardworking woman. She got little help and some company from Woye, her grandson who lived with her. Yaremi enjoyed recounting her interesting childhood experiences to Woye in the form of stories while working on taffeta clothes. Through these stories, Woye learnt how to count numbers and also learnt the importance of hardwork and resilience.
Besides Yaremi, there were three other widows in Kufi who had gone through similar ordeals. They often empathised and shared their widowhood experiences with one another whenever they met on the narrow road leading to the village river. One of them was Dedewe who was tortured and humiliated by her husband’s relatives. Dedewe was made to sit alone by her husband’s corpse in a dark room and also compelled to own up to offences she never committed. Another widow, Fayoyin suffered similar fate. Her hair was badly shaved and she was forced to lick libation. The third widow, Radeke was also accused of killing her husband. These accusations stem from the people’s superstitious belief that no death was natural; hence, a husband’s death must have been caused by his wife.
Through Yaremi’s reminiscences, the author introduces his readers to Ajumobi. Ajumobi was a brave and powerful hunter who enjoyed boasting of his prowess as a successful hunter. In his lifetime, he was firm and had absolute control of his household. Ajumobi was a happy and lively man. Like most men in Kufi, he liked drinking palmwine in the company of friends. He was quite ambitious. Prior to his death, he planned to renovate his house and even take a second wife. Yaremi loved her husband greatly and in spite of their many squabbles in his lifetime, she missed his affection and companionship.
Yaremi was economically self-reliant and assertive. Most men in Kufi resented her as they expected their women to always play second fiddle or be in a subordinate position to them. Like other widows in Kufi, Yaremi was expected to remarry by all means. Radeke, Fayoyin and Dedewe had gone through the cap picking ceremony where they chose new men to replace their deceased husbands.
Yaremi resisted all pressure and chose to remain unmarried. She demonstrated her resolve by turning down proposals from three suitors and refusing to pick up a cap at the cap picking ceremony organised to facilitate her remarriage. As a result, the village elders threatened to confiscate her husband’s property and banish her from the village. The story ends with Yaremi taking off her widowhood garment and expressing a renewed determination to remain in Kufi in spite of all odds.
i.) Widowhood or The plight of widows:
The theme of widowhood is the novel’s central theme. The widows in Lonely Days were subjected to pain and humiliation. The widowhood experiences of Yaremi, Dedewe, Fayoyin and Radeke are a miscrosm of the plight of widows in the larger Nigerian society and in the African continent as a whole. The author condemns widow inheritance, forced remarriage and other cultural practices that subject widows to pain and humiliation.
Another important theme that runs through the novel is the theme of loneliness. Yaremi was very lonely and had to do most things by herself. For instance, she had to appeal to Uncle Deyo, Ajumobi’s friend to assist in mending her leaking roof and rebuilding the walls of her house.
Yaremi suffered humiliation from extended relations who accused her of killing her husband. Dedewe, Fayoyin and Radeke also suffered humiliation. For instance, Dedewe was made to sit in a dark room by her husband’s corpse while Fayoyin’s hair was badly shaved. Hardwork or Diligence: The theme of diligence is expressed by Yaremi’s industrious character. The author uses several anecdotes to encourage hardwork.
iv) Male chauvinism:
This is a belief or notion usually held by men that women are inferior to them. Yaremi suffered resentment from most men in Kufi because of her self-reliant and assertive status.
v.) Survival, Resilience and Determination:
Yaremi had the will and the determination to survive in spite of her predicament as a widow. She worked very hard to earn a decent living and refused to be cowed into accepting traditional injunctions of widow inheritance and remarriage set by her society.
The novel explains how superstitious beliefs impact on people’s behaviour. For instance, wives were accused of killing their husbands because of the belief that someone had to be responsible for every death. They also suspected feathered creatures like birds as they were usually linked to witchcraft.
In Kufi, the people believed that there were good and bad deaths. Yaremi consoled herself with the notion that Ajumobi died a good death. It was also believed that the dead people watch over the living. This explains Yaremi’s many monologues addressed to her late husband, Ajumobi.
Other books by the author(Lonely Days by Bayo Adebowale) are: Out Of His Mind and The Ambitious Village Boy.
The novel’s location is Kufi, an imaginary village in the South-Western part of Nigeria. The author uses Kufi to represent and illustrate the larger society’s treatment of widows.
NARRATIVE TECHNIQUES: lonely days by bayo adebowale
The author uses mainly the third person narrative. However, on few occasions the author let Yaremi tell her own story.
The characters in this novel are grouped into major and minor characters.
Major characters in lonely days by bayo adebowale
She is the protagonist of the novel. Yaremi is a brave, confident, generous, self empowered and an industrious woman. She is the mother of Segi, Wura and Alani. The death of her husband made her a victim of marginalization, deprivation and victimization.
He was a brave hunter. Ajumobi was Yaremi’s late husband and the father of Segi, Wura and Alani. He was “well to do” in his lifetime. He owned a cocoa farm, trees, banana, kolanut trees and fruiting palm trees. Ajumobi was a loving husband who stuttered when he was angry.
The son of Segi and grandson of Yaremi. He is a hardworking child and worthy companion of Yaremi. He helps Yaremi in her taffeta business and likes listening to her stories. He is a healthy child who likes playing football. Woye insists on going to school so that he can read the letters of the alphabet like his mates.
Minor characters in lonely days by bayo adebowale
Yaremi’s first daughter and confidant. She is the mother of Woye and the wife of Wande. She lives in Alode with her husband.
He is the only son of Yaremi and late Ajumobi. He lives in Ibadan where he has a booming carpentry business.
3. Uncle Deyo
He was Ajumobi’s bossom friend when Ajumobi was alive. He is a responsible friend and takes his friend’s family as his even after his friend’s demise. He helps Yaremi with difficult chores like mending of the leaking roof of her house and rebuilding the walls of her mud house.
4. Fayoyin, Dedewe and Radeke
These are the three widows who are also marginalized and victimized like Yaremi by the customs and tradition of Kufi land.
He is the village flute player. He displays his talent during the cap-picking ceremony.
He is one of Yaremi’s suitors. He tries to impress her with stories of his earthly achievement so she can pick him during the cap-picking ceremony. He is also a drummer.
Lanwa is one of Yaremi’s suitors and a wealthy man (farmer) who claims kinship with Yaremi’s late husband.
He is one of Yaremi’s suitors. He brags of making Yaremi a mother of twins once she accepts him in the cap-picking ceremony. He is also a wood carver.
He is commonly known as “Iron man”. He is a husband to Wura. He is a blacksmith and does his work in Apon where he lives.
She is the second daughter and child of Yaremi and late Ajumobi. She lives with her husband, Sokoti, in Apon.
3) CHAPTER SUMMARY: lonely days by bayo adebowale
Yaremi mourned the death of Ajumobi and tried to console herself with the fact that Ajumobi did not die a shameful death.
The mourners falsely suspected her of having killed her husband.
She became very lonely with no husband or children to keep her company.
Woye, her grandson became her only company. She told him stories of her childhood and taught him number games while making taffeta.
Chapter 2 captures Yaremi’s everyday routine especially how she worked hard in the kitchen, in the forest while gathering firewood and in the dyeing yard where she produced her taffeta.
Yaremi is portrayed as a very strong, beautiful and agile woman in spite of her age.
This chapter describes the narrow road leading to the village river. This road served as a meeting point for widows in Kufi.
The chapter also features stories of humiliation, torture and ill-treatment of other widows in Kufi namely Dedewe, Fayoyin and Radeke.
Yaremi showed her versatility by combining different tasks. She made stitches, discarded husks of palm kernel and blew chaff off the melon seeds.
She spent her leisure time exchanging pleasantries with neighbours and telling Woye stories from her childhood days.
The importance of time management was emphasised in this chapter.
Woye is portrayed as a very playful child. Yaremi taught Woye how to make scarecrow to ward off hawks.
The chapter reveals the people’s superstitious beliefs.
Chapter 5 describes events leading to the death of Ajumobi.
Yaremi is portrayed as an independent woman who was no longer under the control of a man.
This chapter introduces the readers to the character of Ajumobi. Ajumobi is described as a brave and powerful hunter. He was also very ambitious.
Yaremi recalled the moments they spent together and showed how much she adored him.
Ajumobi expressed his desire for a polygamous marriage.
The author describes moonlight night in Kufi.
Yaremi recalled her relationship with Ajumobi in his lifetime.
She recalled how she insulted him on some occasions and how Ajumobi beat her.
After his death, Ajumobi appeared on different occasions.
Yaremi attempted to ask Ajumobi several rhetorical questions.
Yaremi expressed her desire for Ajumobi’s affection.
This chapter describes how Yaremi sold her taffeta in different markets and how she dealt with her debtors.
Woye’s ill-health worried Yaremi. She gave him special attention and made several promises. These were aimed at making him recover quickly.
Woye recovered from his illness.
This chapter describes Kufi women. They were hardworking and showed so much devotion to their husbands and children. It also describes how women coped in polygamous homes.
Yaremi displayed her generousity by sharing her food with others.
Yaremi became influential and assertive. Most men in Kufi resented her for these attributes.
Ayanwale, Olonade and Lanwa proposed marriage to Yaremi.
Yaremi displayed manly attributes.
She chided her suitors and turned down their marriage proposals.
Ajumobi appeared to Yaremi in her dreams assuring her of his presence and support.
Her extended family planned to organise a cap picking ceremony to facilitate her remarriage and a purification ritual to make her forget the past.
Dedeke, Fayoyin and Radeke tried to talk Yaremi into remarriage.
This chapter features the cap picking ceremony.
Yaremi refused to pick a cap at the cap picking ceremony.
The villagers were angry.
Yaremi suffered great resentment from the villagers as a result of her decision to remain unmarried.
She recalled her happy days with Ajumobi especially how he showered her with love, care and affection.
She considered leaving Kufi for Adeyipo, her parents’ village.
Segi visited Adeyipo village. Yaremi confided in Segi and expressed her fears.
The chapter features many unanswered questions associated with a widow’s second marriage.
Woye looked forward to starting school in Olode.
Woye returned to Olode with Segi, his mother.
Alani, Yareni’s son arrived from the city.
Uncle Deyo scolded him for keeping away from the village and from his father’s properties.
Uncle Deyo took Alani to Ajumobi’s cocoa plantation showing him the farm’s boundaries.
To Yaremi’s chagrin, Alani announced that he was returning to the city and was not interested in cultivating his late father’s farm.
The village elders threatened to confiscate Ajumobi’s properties and banish Yaremi completely from the village.
Yaremi resolved to remain in Kufi in spite of all odds.
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4) USE OF FIGURATIVE EXPRESSIONS: lonely days by bayo adebowale
The author’s generous use of figurative expressions is evident throughout the novel.
This is a figure of speech that equates two things that are not the same. Comparison is done without the use of “as” or “like”. In Lonely Days, the number game, for instance, has a lot of metaphors in it. Page 8 paragraph 3 reads: “Three is the dirty calabash on my mother’s wooden rack…”. See also paragraphs 4, 6, 7, and 8. You may also see paragraphs 1 to 6 of page 10. Another use of metaphoric expression is seen on page 9 paragraph 3 when Yaremi said “Work was music to us, Woye.” See also the last paragraph of Page 15 where the author directly compares life with fire by saying “Life is fire”. The slippery and narrow river road in Chapter 3 is equally metaphoric. It is directly described as the “Widows’ Road” on which widows thread with caution. The author’s description of a new wife on page 58 also contains a number of metaphors-“A new wife is a polished drum…”; she is a fresh lily…”
This is a figure of speech that compares two non-similar things by the use of “as” or “like”. The author uses simile to describe Yaremi’s loneliness- “Yaremi felt thoroughly abandoned, like a stone at the bottom of a lake” (page 3); “… the extended family’s mockery heaped on her like the strange showers of a January rain” (page 3). Uncle Deyo used simile in describing Alani’s long stay in the city- “You flew away, Alani, like a bird with no destination; like a stone-missile flung aimlessly to an unknown destination from the leather-strap of a catapult”. (page 135)
This is a figure of speech in which human attributes are given to inanimate objects. An example is seen on page 60 paragraph 1- “the moon peeped and vanished, to reappear playfully again among the woods, seducing onlookers’ souls with serene beauty…” 4. Hyperbole: An exaggerated statement not meant to be taken literally. It’s used for emphasis and comic effect. Ajumobi’s boastings in page 50 contain a lot of hyperbole.
5. Rhetorical Questions:
These are questions that do not require answers. Yaremi asked lots of rhetorical questions on page 69- “where are you now, Ajumobi?” is an example of a rhetorical question. Segi also asked rhetorical questions on pages 126 and 127 where she raised questions on remarriage.
5) IMPORTANT LITERARY DEVICES
Exposition is a literary device used to introduce background information about the characters, setting and events to the reader. In Lonely Days, the author explains the character of Ajumobi, the marital life of Ajumobi and Yaremi, and events leading up to the death of Ajumobi through Exposition. This exposition is presented through Yaremi’s thoughts, dialogues between Yaremi and Ajumobi as well as monologues.
The falling action in a work of literature is the sequence of events that follow the climax and end in the resolution. In Lonely Days the falling action occurs after Yaremi refused to pick a cap at the cap-picking ceremony: She suffered great resentment from the villagers because of her decision not to remarry. They also threatened to banish her from the village and confiscate her husband’s properties.
Rising action is what happens in a story leading up to the most exciting part of the story. In Lonely Days, the rising action occurs where Yaremi’s extended family planned to organise a cap picking ceremony to facilitate her remarriage and her co-widows (Fayoyin, Radeke and Dedewe) tried to persuade her to choose a husband at the cap-picking ceremony.
is the part of the story where the tension or action reaches its highest point. In Lonely Days, the climax occurs at the cap-picking ceremony when Yaremi refused to choose a suitor by picking a cap.
Resolution is the part of the story’s plot line in which the problem of the story is resolved or worked out. It comes after the falling action and it is typically where the story ends. In Lonely Days, the resolution occurs when Yaremi resolved to remain in Kufi in spite of the village elders’ threat to confiscate her husband’s properties and banish her from the village.
6) LIKELY QUESTIONS
1. Attempt a chapter summary of Lonely Days.
2. Discuss the character and role of Yaremi in Lonely Days.
3. Discuss the following: i. Five stages of plot ii. the setting iii. the relationship between Yaremi and Ajumobi
4. Discuss the components of oral tradition in Lonely Days
5. Identify and discuss four themes in Lonely Days.